Shropshire Star

MP's ‘serious concerns’ for rural residents over plans to scrap traditional landline service

A Shropshire MP says she fears a landline digital switchover will leave residents who don't have reliable connections "dangerously isolated".


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North Shropshire MP Helen Morgan is urging residents who are vulnerable or don't have reliable mobile signal to contact their landline provider "as soon as possible" ahead of the digital switchover.

Plans to rip out traditional landlines and replace them with digital alternatives have been on the horizon since 2021, with concerns that the network is old and becoming difficult and expensive to maintain.

Landline phone calls have traditionally been delivered over a network known as the public switched telephone network (PSTN), which BT will be retiring by December 2025.

The system will be replaced by a digital technology called Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), which uses a broadband connection.

Other providers plan to follow a similar timetable, but the rollout was paused in December last year amid reports of several incidents involving the failure of personal 'telecare' alarms.

This month, Virgin Media announced plans to resume the rollout voluntarily for those who are not using a telecare device.

Ofcom says the new system will rely on customers having a "suitable connection" and expects providers to have a "range of options" in place for people who don't already have one.

MP Helen Morgan. Photo: Michael Anderson

But MP Helen Morgan has raised concerns that the switchover will hit rural areas like North Shropshire the hardest, with elderly and digitally excluded residents often unaware that a change has even been proposed.

She said: “Phasing out copper wire could leave people dangerously isolated in an emergency if their power is down and they don’t have a reliable mobile signal.

“You can’t even drive across North Shropshire and make a phone call due to how poor the signal can be – so it’s crucial the industry gets a grip on this problem.

“I have serious concerns over the digital landline switchover and the impact that losing copper wire landlines will have on some of my most vulnerable constituents. Nobody should be switched without a proper backup plan in place.

“Therefore it’s really important that anyone concerned about the switchover contacts their landline provider to discuss their options as soon as possible.”

Ofcom has said providers "must make sure" customers can contact the emergency services during a power cut and suggests that they provide customers with a battery back-up a basic mobile phone to use in that situation.a